If you are headed for divorce and the laws and the whole process are new to you, there’s a good chance that you’re wondering if you can have any control over how your assets and debts are divided. Can you decide on a settlement? Or, is it all up to the judge?
It can go either way – you and your spouse can decide on a fair settlement or a judge can decide for you; it all depends on how well you get along with your spouse and whether you’re both willing to reach an agreement without court intervention.
In the United States, we have two methods for dividing property in a divorce: Equitable distribution and community property. The majority of states follow the equitable distribution model and Pennsylvania is one of them.
Basics of Equitable Division in Pennsylvania
In a Pennsylvania marriage, there is “marital property” and there is “separate property.” Martial property refers to property acquired during the marriage and before the date of separation; marital property is subject to division in the event of a divorce.
In contrast, separate property refers to property acquiredbefore the marriage (e.g. collectibles owned before the marriage or a car owned free and clear before the marriage) or after the date of separation. Separate property is NOT subject to division in a divorce.
Other types of separate property:
- An inheritance received during the marriage.
- Any property excluded from the marital estate due to a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.
- Gifts received during the marriage, for example, a $10,000 diamond ring from her grandmother, or a $50,000 classic car from his deceased father.
Under Pennsylvania’s equitable distribution model, the court divides marital property on a case-by-case basis. When deciding how to divide a couple’s assets and debts, the court considers numerous factors, such as the length of the marriage, the income and assets of each spouse, and who will be caring for the children most of the time.
Does the court always decide on how a couple must divide their property and debts? No, not necessarily. If the spouses are willing to put their heads together and reach an agreement on property and debt division, there is no need for court intervention.
If a couple can work together on a marital settlement agreement, they can control how their assets are divided – and not a judge who does not know them or their situation!
When a Pennsylvania couple works towards a mutual, no-fault divorce, they can save the time, money, and headache associated with the divorce process. Not only that, they can get divorced much sooner!
If you’re interested in learning more about controlling your divorce settlement with your spouse’s cooperation, contact our Pennsylvania no-fault divorce firm!